Overflow DOES go back a long way, way way back into the (excuse the pun) anals of time when men were men and you could buy a quarter of sherbert and still have enough money left over to buy your Granny a new hat!
The Overflow was established (nay hatched out like an uncomfortable egg) in December 1986. Fed up with the monotonous drone of mainstream radio, It was time to do something about it! At the time, the only alternative programme on radio, was the Overdrive service on 963khz AM which came from the pirate ship The Ross Revenge (home of Radio Caroline). Fantastic as it was, the Overdrive service was rather short lived and often irregular, finally closing for good in early 1987. In it's short time on air, Overdrive 963 had accumulated quite a following in Essex
Even our local pub (The Albion - Rowhedge nr-Colchester) switched off the jukebox at 9pm in favour of Overdrive, the AM signal echoing around the building, mixed with the sound of beer swilling bikers - I will never forget those days. Then suddenly they were gone!
The Albion Public House
I had been running a station called Radio Freedom up to this point, a Top 40 format land based pirate, which I would rather forget about now! (see pre-overflow history). On December 17th at 8pm Freedom Overflow (as it was known then), hit the airwaves in Essex on 90.9FM for the first time.
The new station provided a strange mixture initially, made up from releases that the Overdrive service had been plugging, along with obscure album tracks and really ANYTHING that wasnt played on the painfull mainstream
Still merrily running along side on 93.9 FM was your All Hit Radio station - Radio Freedom.
The very first Overflow broadcast was only two hours long, yet created plenty of interest. Probably for two reasons: 1). It was covering similar ground to that of the popular station - Overdrive 963... and 2). No-one had ever heard a land based pirate station quite as loony as this! The programme presentation was still slick fast moving like Radio Freedom (although it became 'well-relaxed' later), but the music was completely different. Both Radio Freedom and Freedom Overflow continued to run until March 1987, but by March, I'd had enough. It was practically a full time job trying to keep both stations on air. Organising everything, or more to the point - everyone! It all became too much to deal with.
Having a few broadcasts under our belt now, it soon became clear that Freedom Overflow was gaining a much better response than the (by now dwindling) Top 40 service from Radio Freedom. It was at this point a decision was made to put all resources into the new Overflow service, as not only was the response and feedback far better, so was the music!!!
So, poor old Radio Freedom was abandoned - and looking back - It was the right thing to do. Anyway, the music being played, you could hear in a dozen different places on the radio band, so why bother? Freedom Overflow continued to broadcast as a FREE radio station, operating on various FM frequencys over the years and the many voices of Overflow came and went. The Initial DJ line up for the first broadcast was - Garry Lee and (the awful) Larry the doorknob. New DJ: Reggae Ray was next to join the station, shortly followed by Tim Rice (who I had been working with since the original start-up of Radio East FM in 1983) (see Pre-Overflow history).
Tim had followed on to Radio Freedom, although his programmes didnt fit with the Top 40 format at all (though I still have tape of him playing a soul record by ATLANTIC STAR)! Tim assures me to this day that it was just a one-off, I can't help but wonder what else is lurking in the depths of the closet known as Tim's record collection! (He keeps it under lock & key at all times).
Above : The song Tim played (His mum photo-copied this for us, from Tim's secret record box, kept in the shed)
As the years went by, Freedom Overflow progressed into Essex's only outlet for Alternative & Underground music. Many local bands made contact, gasping for airplay as the mainstream stations didnt want to know. We helped as many as we could, giving their demo tapes airtime and also starting a local gig guide, which focused particularly on un-signed bands.
Things were soon to change drastically (once again), as in November 1988, I met & started a relationship with The Black Widow, who I later married in the summer of 1994. Little did I know at the time, she was to become one of Overflow's most popular DJ's. It took me a year to coax her onto the airwaves, finally making her debut as a DJ on Christmas day 1989.
Through the 90's, we were often heard on air together. We managed to play off each other extremely well, as both of us were quick with sarcastic humour & ready wit, usually giving as good as we got! It was often a battle, much to the amusement of our listeners. The Black Widow also did a handfull of programmes for Hampshire's Freesound Radio in 1992 - A shortwave pirate in the (un-official) 48metre band.
Other DJ's through the nineties included names such as: Captain Chaos (now a highly regarded historian), L.Blitz (with all the Hitz) (now a fellow diabetic beer drinker), Ivor The Driver (now practising maintenance in Southampton), Paul Windsor (who appeared on Mi Amigo 1503 & also the Anglia Online Radio service), Dingo Virgin, Old Man Ghenghis, David Lee (no relation), Mystic Sister, Gordon Ganja & Herman The German.
There were also many many others - see DJ Profiles. (I hope there will be a profile for everyone - eventually!
Tim Rice: No one mentioned Jethro Muckspeader!
Garry Lee: Patience dear boy!
If you know of anyone missed out from the profiles, please mail me and help make the history 100% completely complete! (I think that makes sense)?
Going back to the on air gig-guides, we ended up receiving so many dates from local bands & artists, that we started printing up a monthly A4 gig list. These only went to one venue, the notorious Bakers Arms in Colchester. Everyone & anyone likely to be interested in what we were promoting went there for at least one night of their weekend.
Eventually, the printed gig guides became too much work, so we packed that idea up! We were soon to become very good friends with the staff at the Bakers and they decided to start printing up their own gig guide booklets called 'Whats on'. We were given a free advert regularly on the back cover, as we were plugging the now legendary Sunday night 'Happy Hour' (an event in itself - believe me). I can sum Happy Hour up in one word... HOBEC! If you were there, you will know!!!
Between 1991 & early 1993, The Overflow Club happened every Tuesday evening at The Colchester Hippodrome. Yes, a weekly Live appearance from yours truly, giving their massive sound system what can only be described as a 'DAMN GOOD THRASHING'. A mixture of Rock & Indie past & present was played, with a live group each week.
Many of the bands that played were unknown Rock bands, some local, some from further afield. Bigger acts included Hazel O'Conner, Dumpys Rusty Nuts, Engine, Babes In Toyland, Skin (before they became Skin) and without doubt the highlight for me - The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown!
I had been a follower of Arthur for many years, so to meet him was a very nerve racking experience for me. I paced around the house at night worrying myself stupid for the weeks leading up to this, though it really wasn't necessary at all. Arthur was a wonderful chap, very approachable and happy to answer the 25,000 questions that I had ready to ask the poor guy!
Other than his performance, the other highlight of the occasion for me, was travelling with his crew a short distance across town to their hotel. I sat in the back of the tour bus, listening to Arthur tell the story of when he played at a festival with Jimi Hendrix in 1968. I remember thinking 'Life doesn't get any better than this'! We also put on the very first gigs from an extremely young 'Cradle Of Filth'. One at the Hippodrome and one at another local venue I was involved with.